BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
WORKERS in the general agriculture sector have been awarded an 84,62% salary increment, which will see the lowest paid employee getting $360 a month.
According to the collective bargaining agreement seen by NewsDay Business last week, the highest paid employee would now get $720 from $390.
Before the adjustment, the least paid employee was earning $195.
However, the new wage adjustment, which became effective on October 1, has been described as too little to cushion workers from the prevailing economic hardships.
Inflationary pressures have seen the cost of living rising beyond the reach of many in the southern African nation as prices of basic commodities have more than quadrupled in recent months, resulting in the poverty datum line for an average family of five skyrocketing to $1 617 in July.
The wage agreement, signed on October 18, was reached by the parties which included Zimbabwe Agricultural Employers Organisation, Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union, Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union, Commercial Farmers’ Union, Zimbabwe Tobacco Association, General and Plantation Workers’ Union of Zimbabwe and Horticulture General Agriculture and Plantation Workers’ Union of Zimbabwe as well as Horticulture General Agriculture and Plantation Workers’ Union of Zimbabwe.All amounts were rounded off to the nearest $1, the agreement reads.
“An establishment or employees may apply to the National Employment Council within 14 days for an exemption of partial exemption or review from paying wages as set up in the above schedule, stating the reasons why that application should be considered,” reads part of the memo.
Progressive Agriculture and Allied Industries Workers’ Union of Zimbabwe general-secretary Raymond Sixpence accused workers’ unions, who took part in the negotiations, of conniving with the employers to impoverish workers.
“It’s still the same wine in a new bottle. There is nothing to cheer or celebrate. We are going to negotiate for a living wage on the farms with each individual employer. These unions are betraying the workers. They are sleeping in bed with employers,” Sixpence said.
“None can survive with this paltry wage. We are allowed to negotiate in terms of the Labour Act chapter 28:01,” he added.
At its peak, Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector used to provide 45% of the country’s exports, 60% of all raw materials used by local industry and 70% employment.
But now the figures have plummeted, due to a combination of challenges such as recurrent droughts that have preceded chaotic land reform programme in the wake of unavailability of cheap agriculture funding, among other constraints.